The benefits of the sporting life 31 August 2011 | Posted by Dr Duncan Jefferson | Posted in Fitness Health Last weekend I spent a delightful couple of hours watching two of the smaller members of our family playing sport. Despite the chilly dampness in the air at 7.30 on a Saturday morning, hundreds of kids, Mums & Dads and assorted grandparents all met at the playing fields to take part in a ritual that is repeated in every city and small town around the country: and though we hate getting out of bed at that time, we all love being there! One of the “intangibles” of sport in general is the community spirit it builds, because it allows us to meet and interact with the parents of the children we know through school and who otherwise, we might never meet. It’s a time when you can literally see the benefits of sport for children as they improve in speed, endurance, coordination and working within a team framework whilst at the same time hearing the stories of the homes they have come from. Of the not-so-uncommon relationship problems, or the Mum who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, the Dad with the brain tumour, or the little sibling who has a serious physical or mental disability. Suddenly the behavioral problems of certain kids becomes more understandable in the light of what you now know has been happening at home. And it doesn’t stop there. As a result of this newly acquired information a whole chain reaction is set off and the support mechanism of a small community slips into gear in order to help and sustain those who are most in need of it. That’s what happens when you are part of a community with similar aims, and it happens around every sporting group in this wonderful country of ours. Many years ago a tragedy occurred where a young man in a team I coached broke his neck, and in 10 seconds went from being the fastest guy on the field to being a quadriplegic. Within a month, between the awesome support of his school community and the wider sporting community, over $300,000 was raised in order to help meet some the huge financial burdens he and his family were going to face for the rest of his life. That made me realize what generosity of Spirit there is in our communities, and especially in our sporting communities who always respond with such massive generosity to the needs to those who suffer from similar tragedies. But Sporting Groups don’t just help those they know, they also support wider Organizations such as Breast Cancer Support groups, Beyond Blue, Parkinson’s Disease ... in fact the list is a very long one. And so many of our young people use the challenge of sporting endeavor as a focus for their fundraising: they ride across Australia on bikes to raise funds for a Children’s Hospice in Sydney, or they walk/jog 100 kms in a weekend to raise money for Oxfam, or even those who walked the Kakoda Trail for Breast and Ovarian cancer research. But it’s not just the young who Run for a very good Reason: a Perth man I know in his 60’s (mind you he’s a very fit 60 year old) ran across Australia pushing a wheelbarrow to raise money for Prostate and Breast cancer research! So whilst the runner, the cyclist, the dancer, the netball player can get their very own health benefits from physical activity, we in the wider community all benefit from what many of these “fitness freaks” get up to! But it’s also good to remind us why physical activity is good for us: Cardiovascular health is important for everyone as heart disease and strokes are still the number 1 killer in this country. Whilst there are many things about heart disease we still have to discover, we do know that being physically active on a regular basis for the whole of your life, will reduce the chances of suffering from heart disease, and also help you control the problem should you suffer from cardiovascular disease as a result of “reasons beyond your control”. Brain related disorders such as Anxiety and Depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease are all eased to some extent by an increase in regular physical activity: just as at the other end of the time-scale, physical activity can have a big impact on brain function and behavioural problems in early childhood. All lung disorders are helped by physical activity: asthma, cystic fibrosis and obstructive airways disease sufferers all need to have appropriate physical activities factored into their health routines. Our bones and joints need to be “put under pressure” in order to maintain good health during the whole course of our lives as our maximum bone density is determined in the early adolescent years, and needs to be maintained by consistent use otherwise calcium will leech out and lead to Osteoporosis later in life. So whoever you are, and wherever you live in Australia, your health will at some point be affected by physical activity: if it’s you keeping fit, then you’re maximizing your health. But if you get sick, it’s very likely that the research for your disease has been boosted by funds raised by those who ran in HBF's Run for A Reason. Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au. The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.